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CHP follows up clusters of Candida auris carrier cases in public hospitals
     The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health said today (March 29) that it has recently received notifications from the Hospital Authority (HA) a number of carrier cases of Candida auris found in three public hospitals.

     The cases were found in two wards in Kowloon Hospital, and one ward each in Hong Kong Buddhist Hospital and Tung Wah Group of Hospitals Wong Tai Sin Hospital. As of yesterday (March 28), a total of 23 carrier cases were found, involving 15 males and eight females aged 20 to 101. All of them were confirmed to have carried Candida auris upon testing without symptoms of infection. In accordance with the HA's prevailing guidelines, the hospitals have arranged contact tracing and screening for contacts who have stayed in the same wards of the patients and a series of enhanced infection control measures have already been adopted to prevent the spread of Candida auris.

     The epidemiological investigation conducted by the CHP and HA revealed that the clusters were caused by transmission in hospital wards. Amongst the 23 cases, 14 patients are residents of 13 different residential care homes for the elderly (RCHEs). So far, the CHP has not found sources of infection nor transmission in the community or RCHEs. The investigation is continuing.

     As the carrier patients who stay in RCHEs will return to their RCHEs upon discharge from hospitals, for prudence's sake, the CHP and the Social Welfare Department will assist relevant RCHEs to enhance infection control measures. Separately, according to the prevalence surveys conducted by the CHP in RCHEs and residential care homes for persons with disabilities (RCHDs) in the past, transmissions of Candida auris in RCHEs/RCHDs were not found.

     Upon receiving notifications by the HA of a discharge plan for the Candida auris carrier cases to return to the RCHEs, staff from the CHP will conduct a site visit to the RCHEs. The CHP will also work with the Community Geriatric Assessment Team of the HA and the Social Welfare Department to provide infection control advice and staff training, including specific placement of the carrier resident, strict observation of infection control precautions, enhancement of environmental cleansing and disinfection, use of dedicated medical equipment, toilet and bathing facilities. The CHP has also reminded RCHEs to heighten vigilance in the institutional environment, with special attention paid to residents who had stayed in hospitals with any report of Candida auris outbreaks.

     A spokesman for the CHP explained that Candida is a fungus commonly found in the natural environment, particularly in moist and warm environments. In humans, it is commonly found in body sites such as the oral cavity, the digestive tract, skin and the vagina. It is a common fungus living on or in the human body but can occasionally cause infections, especially in individuals with impaired immunity.

     ‚ÄčAmong the different candida species, Candida auris is more drug-resistant. Infections vary from being mild to potentially life-threatening or fatal, depending on which part of the body is affected and the general health condition of the patient. The spokesman stressed that proper use of antimicrobials and maintaining personal hygiene, especially hand hygiene, are crucial to the prevention of emergence and cross-transmission of Candida auris.
Ends/Wednesday, March 29, 2023
Issued at HKT 20:59
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